Drugreporter produced a new documentary, titled “Psychedelics in Scotland” on the struggle to liberate psychedelic medicine in Scotland. In the film, people with lived experience provide testimony on the healing powers of psychedelic drugs. We produced additional films as well at the 3 day long event on cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms, as well as other healing plants indigenous to Scotland.
The Scottish Psychedelic Research Group (SPRG) was set up in 2021 in collaboration with Dr. Jake Hawthorn, Dr. Anna Ross of the University of Edinburgh, Fiona Gilbertson of Recovering Justice, and Dr Christoph Zwolen, and was supported through the Open Society Foundations Global Drug Policy Programme. Dr. Anna Ross and Fiona Gilbertson have been collaborating for many years on challenging the narratives surrounding drug policy, by creating channels of engagement with under-represented voices. A particular focus has been the devastation created by state agencies enacting the existing drug laws. The trauma created in the lives of people who use drugs , women and families is often borne in shame and silence . This led to passion in psychedelic assisted medicine as a therapeutic tool, and the use of cannabis, both as a medicine and a social drug.
An integral aim of SPRG is to provide a link between the multiple communities currently engaged or interested in plant medicine in Scotland, with a specific focus on linking policy and practice to the wider indigenous use of plant medicine in Scotland, and to ensure that these voices are a core part of any policy being developed in Scotland.
In February 2023 SPRG held a 3 day Celebration of Scotland’s Indigenous Apothecary encompassing cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms, as well as other healing plants indigenous to the Scottish land. The events were organised to coincide with the international movement #thankyouplantmedicine. They collaborated with the Scottish Cannabis Consortium, the University of Edinburgh, and many other organisations and people involved in both plant medicine and drug policy reform in Scotland in order to explore the healing potential of these plants.
Each day explored different aspects of plant medicine in Scotland, weaving their three strands together: community building, research and education and policy development.
Underpinning and connecting these three strands is the concept of ethics, and how policies move towards an integration of plant medicine into the health system and wider social environment with care
Drugreporter travelled to Scotland to record these events, and provide short summaries of each day (On the reform progress in Scotland see our previous article, “Investing in People, Not Jails: Drug Policy Reform in Scotland“).
Monday 20th February: Indigenous Apothecary: Stories of healing and thanks
This unique event provided a space for the Scottish indigenous healing community to come together and celebrate in a safe and held space (current laws create an environment where we are criminalised and often feel marginalised, stigmatised).
The focus was on the power of storytelling in creating community and connection, and was attended by over 50 individuals all keen to share their story of healing and gratitude. Because it was a safe and confidential event we did not take any photographs or recordings, however, we are in the process of creating an artist rendition of this feedback for our next event in September.
Tuesday 21st February: The Scottish Cannabis Symposium
On the second day SPRG held a cannabis symposium. The half day event brought stakeholders together to connect, share knowledge, have respectful dialogue and importantly envision the future of cannabis in Scotland, both within the UK, and as a potential independent country with the power to write our own drug laws. The day was structured along the lines of a conversation café on cannabis with speed dating.
It was an incredibly powerful event, with networks and collaborations being made between multiple stakeholders in the cannabis community. Importantly it was an opportunity for everyone to tell their own cannabis story, with all stakeholders, regardless of their interest in the industry, feeling safe and able to share why they are passionate about bringing cannabis medicine back to Scotland.
22nd February: Psychedelics in Scotland
The final day involved two events: a panel event in which we heard from a range of expert speakers ranging from academic, research and importantly several lived experience voices, and a Scottish Parliament event, sponsored by Pauline McNeil MSP, with the same speakers and focus, but with MSP’s in attendance.
In keeping with the power of this medicine to inspire and create community, this day was packed full of energy and inspiring, at times painful, stories of healing and gratitude for the plants, and the potential they have to heal, connect and transform individuals and communities.
One of the most powerful moments was when a mother, Karen Llewellyn, spoke of the harm that had been done to her sons and her family by the drug policy and medical frameworks. In a tragic turn of events Karen’s son Jake passed away 2 months later. Inquiries are ongoing.
Similarly, John Anderson, a neuroscientist, counsellor and board member of SPRG presented the story of his own healing which sent shivers around the room. The power of being heard and having the opportunity to speak our truth in these environments cannot be understated.
We decided to publish the uncut interviews as well, for a more in-depth analysis of the situation of psychedelics in Scotland:
And all the videos are available in podcast format as well!
Article text and production: Anna Ross and Fiona Gilbertson
Reporter: Péter Sárosi
Camera and editing: István Gábor Takács
A Celebration of Scotland’s Indigenous Apothecary